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Tree registry protects huge, beautiful, rare trees

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove City Councilor Victoria Lowe has a pair of Giant Sequoias in her Forest Grove yard that are listed in the citys Register of Significant Trees.Victoria Lowe’s house on 17th Place doesn’t need air conditioning, even in the hottest of summer months. And in the winter, the Forest Grove City Councilor doesn’t worry about heavy snow or high winds.

Did Lowe invest in the latest form of green technology and sustainable building? Nope. She’s just lucky enough to have a pair of Giant Sequoias on her property.

Lowe, a member of the Forest Grove City Council, is not only a fan of her oversized conifers, but a big supporter of protecting all trees. “The community of Forest Grove,” she said, “needs to have forest.”

Forest Grove was named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1990, and it has been recognized 22 consecutive years with this honor. Protecting its groves is an important part of the community, and in 2001 the city approved an ordinance adopting its Register of Significant Trees.

The register was updated in 2008 and again earlier this year. There are currently 189 trees on the list, which includes 143 Oregon White Oaks and 19 Giant Sequoias, several Douglas Firs and a few other varieties.

Property owners must request a listing on the register and their trees must meet certain criteria, such as having a distinctive size, possessing “exceptional beauty” or being uncommon to this area.

The addition of a tree requires the blessing of the city’s volunteer Community Forestry Commission, which then holds a public hearing before its recommendation is passed to the City Council for approval.

Those with trees registered benefit by having an arborist, retained by the Forestry Commission, provide a free evaluation of the health of their trees. The commission also provides property owners with information on how to take care of trees.

Removal of a tree on the register must be granted by the commission. This happens if a tree is unsafe, dead, in the path of development or so diseased that the cost to treat it exceeds a quarter of its value.

If someone decides to remove a registered tree without permission, they may have to replant several trees or pay a value-based fine, according to Dan Riordan, the Community Development staff liaison to the Forestry Commission. (White oaks have an average value of $19,000; sequoias, $48,300.)

Since the program is voluntary, permission to remove a tree is usually granted and Riordan can’t recall any instances where someone was fined for removing a tree on the register without permission.

However, getting a tree removed can be costly.

Jonathan Kipp had five Giant Sequoias on his property, located at 1651 Hawthorne St. He had several arborists inspect and trim the trees in 2010. Two of them had to be taken down, leaving him with a pair of 20-foot stumps and a $12,000 bill. (Removing the stumps would cost an additional $8,000, he said.)

Kipp recognizes the beauty of having these trees, as well as the incredible amount of maintenance they require. “Trees,” he said, “are both a blessing and a curse.”

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